What is the Winter Solstice?
This year the Winter Solstice falls on 21st December and marks the shortest day of the year. Solstice means ‘sun-stop’, and for three days around the solstice the sun appears to rise and set at the same point, moving in a low arc through the sky and casting the longest shadow of the year on our Calendar Sundial. After the solstice, the days gradually begin to lengthen again as the sun moves slightly higher in the sky each day.
We know that the Winter Solstice was an important time for the ancient people of Ireland because the stunning passageway at Newgrange is beautifully aligned to winter solstice sunrise, flooding the inner recesses of the tomb with golden light for about twenty minutes on three days only.
It is possible that Christmas was celebrated a few days after the Solstice as the return of the sun symbolised the birth of Jesus, bringing new light into the world.
Symbolically, the Winter Solstice is a time to let go of unwanted thoughts, habits or emotions, making way for new beginnings as we look forward to spring.
Newgrange image kindly provided by World Heritage Ireland.